Author Archives: Notorious Spinks

Book Review: The Freedom Writers Diary

I learned a lot in the first few days that I was enrolled in the class.  Some of my classmates are going through a war… an undeclared war, waged on innocent kids just trying to grow up.  Society just doesn’t care about young people anymore, even if we are the future.

Call me corny but I love the movie, The Freedom Writers.  If I’m flipping through the channels and it’s on, you best to believe I’m going to watch.  Every time I watch the movie I laugh and cry as if it were my first viewing…I can’t believe it took me this long to read the book.

The Freedom Writers Diary was written by The Freedom Writers,  about 150 students who named themselves in honor of the civil rights activists the Freedom Riders, with their teacher Erin Gruwell.  The Freedom Writers along with their teacher waged war against a community that deemed these students as worthless and unteachable.  I think the worst thing was that even many of the teachers at Wilson High School labeled them as at-risk and unsavable.

This diary turned book consists of anonymous diary entries that Gruwell required the students to write in class.  The entrees give an inside view into the lives of the students.  I was flabbergasted at some of the situations that the students endured at home.  But when I really thought about it I wasn’t surprised.  There were students who were molested, homeless, drug addicts and abused.  However they all shared one common factor — they all wanted to be wanted.

Dear Diary,
If you look into my eyes, you will see a loving girl.
If you look at my smile, you will sense that nothing is wrong.
If you look in my heart, you will see some pain.
If you pull up my shirtsleeves and look at my arms, you will see black and blue marks.

There’s nothing like knowing that you have family and a community that values you and will keep you safe.  The things that kids are forced to deal with are sickening.  As I look back on my own childhood, I thank God that he kept me ‘cuz “life for me ain’t been no crystal stair” but I made it.  I guess that’s why I love this story so much.  In life we run across so many people who try to tear and beat us down but we continue to rise.  I’m so glad that there was a Ms. Gruwell for these kids and I pray that others who exist are given the resources they need to help our children.

As I think back on my days in high school, my Ms. Gruwells were Mrs. Sermons and Mrs. Gray.  If it were not for their love of teaching I’m not sure where I would be.  It was in their classes that I truly began to love the written word.  It was in their classes that I found hope.  I wasn’t just that little fast girl who my uncle declared would be pregnant by the age of 16.  I was “young, black and gifted.”  As I read this book I was so happy that these students of various hues realized that they were young and gifted and that there are people who really care.

I know that all of the stories won’t end like this one but if we all just do something to ensure that we shine our light so that others can see…just imagine…


Book Review: Leaving Atlanta

Leaving Atlanta tells the story of classmates Tasha Baxter, Rodney Green and Octavia Harrison during their fifth-grade year at Oglethorpe Elementary in Atlanta.

Might nothing.  Think about it.  You ain’t never heard of nobody black going around killing people for no reason.  That’s white people’s shit.

Tasha is eager to return to school to show off her jump rope skills after practicing all summer to perfect her moves.  If she can perfect her foot work then she may gain a spot in the clique of Monica and Forsythia.  However, those dreams come to a halt when she finds out that jumping rope in fifth-grade is “baby stuff” according to Monica.   As the girls graduate from jumping rope to playing jacks, Tasha shows off her skills and puts a whipping on Monica.  That doesn’t help her chances of gaining access to the in-crowd but it does cause her to question the state of her family.

You now know, as undeniably as if you had read it in the World Book Encyclopedia, that Officer Brown has nothing useful to share.  As a matter of fact, you are more fearful than ever to know that this man is all that stands between your generation and an early death.

Rodney is a loner who has little to say but his thoughts are priceless.  He spends his days trying to make himself invisible as he comes to grips with the fact that he’ll never please his father.   If only “an epidemic of disappearing black fathers” hit his home like so many of his friends everything would be okay.  Instead his dad appears at the school after Rodney falls asleep at recess and misses lunch.  After being humiliated in front of his peers he is convinced that any place is better than home.

Kodak commercials say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but the one they showed of ____ ain’t worth more than three or four.  ____. Black. Dead.

Octavia, another outcast, is affectionately called “Sweet Pea” by her single mom but is ostracized for her dark skin and is teasingly called “Watusi” by her classmates.   Unlike her “almost friend” Rodney who tries to make himself invisible, Octavia has a good aim and will fight back with words and rocks.  But when two people she knows goes missing she is forced to deal with the consequences.

Leaving Atlanta is one of the few stories that make you start your sentence with, “Girl let me tell you about this book…”  when asked how you like it.

This novel is a fictional story set in Atlanta during one of Atlanta’s America’s darkest hours, Atlanta’s Child Murders.  During the years of 1979-1982, twenty-nine children went missing and some were found dead.

Born  in 1978, I’m too young to remember these events but author Tayari Jones delivers a first hand account from the third person narrative of Tasha, the second person narrative of Rodney and a first person account by Octavia.   Each of the fifth-graders tell the story from their own unbiased point-of-view.

As I read the book I felt like I was in Atlanta during these events.  The feelings that resonated from the characters were feelings I could remember having as a child.  I found myself thinking on many occasions, “Tayari had to have really dug deep in her past to nail these childlike characteristics.”

I also wondered if writing this book had affected her mental state since two of her classmates were among the twenty-nine missing.

I’m not sure I could have told this story but Tayari did and it was done with a style that is  to be envied.  Her descriptive words and language never failed to paint a picture or conjure feelings of my childhood.

What I loved most about this book was that it didn’t talk so much about the Atlanta Child Murders but focused more on how the community reacted to it, especially the children.  I couldn’t imagine having to walk home from school with a serial killer on the loose.

This novel is broken into three parts with a three, two, one punch that hits you hard below the belt.  Initially you would think that the three different perspectives would be ill-fitting but they all meshed together to tell a wonderful story about an unfortunate time in our history.

Leaving Atlanta will soon be in theaters.  Check out Nakia’s post, Leaving Atlanta at the Movies for more information on the project and a sneak peek trailer.

You can also find me at

Introducing The Page Turner: Spinks’ Niche

The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows. ~ Sydney J.Harris

“Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair” but books have served as my window to the world.  They have always been there to comfort me, one page at a time.

Who is Notorious Spinks?

I’m a Blogger, entrepreneur, public relations specialist, social media maven, certified book whore and proud aunt to seven nieces, two nephews and two great-nieces.  Of all those things I’m most proud to be an aunt.  You can usually find me spoiling holding the babies in one hand with a book in the other.

The author who influenced me the most?

Hands down, Eric Jerome Dickey.  I read my first EJD novel when I was 17-years-old, Sister, Sister.  Don’t ask me what the book was about because I can’t tell you but I remember how my heart raced as I read his bio.  EJD grew up in the same neighborhood as me and we graduated from the same high school.  His success gave me reassurance that I really could do anything I wanted to do.  He made it out and I could too…

Now my favorite author is Zora Neale Hurston.  Baby I love me some Zora.  Her gumption is unmatched.  Like Zora I don’t mind giving my two sense on any issue or injustice.  *In my Bone Crusher voice* Cuz I ain’t never scared. Sometimes you just have to speak up and out.  My favorite writing from her is a letter she wrote to the editor of the Orlando Sentinel in 1955 entitled, “Court Order Can’t Make the Races Mix.”  This work from Zora continues to fuel my fire when I speak out about issues that are unpopular.  But I’m not in this to win the popularity contest either.  Shole ain’t.

What is Spinky reading?

I’m reading Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones.  It is set in Atlanta during the child murders and told from the viewpoint of a child.  So far I love it because it’s a fresh perspective on a true event as Jones was a student in Atlanta while the murders were happening.  The review will be up soon.

So if you’re looking for the Notorious One you can find me on my soapbox over at Notorious Spinks Talks.  I’m usually talking books, brands, culture and events while doing the dougie.

Until next time Spinkys.